The next day the mountains turned red once more, and the cycle repeated itself. The following day, however, they lit up sporadically, but no flash of red appeared, and no pain or despair came upon the group. Ryan had stood up early that morning and decided to go for a walk, shrugging off the suggestions of others that he stay back. If he was going to be in pain, he reasoned, then it didn’t matter where. No one could help him anyway. Thankfully, though, he likely escaped pain free that day.
Back at the group, about midway through the day, a different event happened that caused excitement.
“Oh my! I can’t believe it!!!”, G-ma said as she looked to her side. She’d been sitting with Mrs. Corum to her right, talking with her about everything and nothing, and didn’t notice a bag that appeared next to her, seemingly out of nowhere.
“What is that?”, Mrs. Corum exclaimed. It was the first new thing to ever appear for either of them, excluding living people.
“It’s my knitting bag!”, G-ma said, amazed and nearly speechless, “I haven’t seen it in so long”. Quickly she opened the bag, and tears of joy streamed down her face. “It has everything in it! Everything I ever needed. Needles, patterns, yarn, markers, absolutely everything. And wait… I never owned this…”
She reached into the bag and pulled out several skeins of yarn.
“Feel this”, she said as she handed the yarn to Mrs. Corum.
“Feels like yarn?”, Mrs. Corum replied. Obviously Mrs. Corum did not appreciate the finer points of fiber arts.
“Oh you wouldn’t understand… Jamie!”, G-ma called out. Jamie, a bit farther out, turned to face them and was shocked to see G-ma holding the yarn.
“Where did you get that?”, Jamie asked, excitedly.
“I don’t know! It just appeared here a few moments ago. Come over here and feel this”.
Jamie obediently came over and sat down next to G-ma. Holding the yarn, she began to speak in amazement.
“This is the softest yarn I’ve ever felt – it’s not coarse or stringy, and the dye job is beautiful”.
“I know, dear”.
As they sat there, a torrent of yarn-speak came forth, with Mrs. Corum tuning out after they began talking about what sort of animal the yarn had come from. Sadly it had no marking on it.
“Ladies…. Can we talk about what happened?”, Mrs. Corum interjected.
“Uh… sure”, G-ma said, “Just let me get started on something here. I haven’t had real needles and yarn in so long!”. G-ma grabbed a size eight needle and the yarn.
“I’m going to knit a scarf!”, G-ma said excitedly.
“That’s great…so where do you think that yarn came from”, Mrs. Corum asked.
“I don’t know… and I really don’t care”, G-ma said.
It was obvious that Mrs. Corum wasn’t going to get much out of G-ma or Jamie. So she got up and began to walk toward where Mara and Sara Beth were sitting.
“What’s going on over there”, Sara Beth asked. She wasn’t close enough to hear the commotion, but could tell something interesting had occurred.
Mrs. Corum explained what she’d seen, and both Sara Beth and Mara were left speechless.
“G-ma is so preoccupied with the arrival of her knitting bag that I don’t think she realizes how weird this truly is, or what it could mean. If it is the case that Julie can ‘control’ us in some ways, or can create a reality for us, she could also give us things. Maybe the knitting bag is the first step. Maybe somehow G-ma signaled to Julie she wanted her knitting bag, and that’s how she got it.”
“Well, she has been knitting here for 8 years without yarn or needles”, Sara Beth observed, “That’s a pretty strong signal”.
“Perhaps. I just hope we don’t have to spend 8 years before we get something nice”, Mrs. Corum replied.
Mara eyed Sara Beth, wondering if this might be the point at which Sara Beth mentioned Mara’s purse. But Sara Beth stayed quiet. Mara felt relieved.
After Mrs. Corum had left, Mara looked at Sara Beth and quietly spoke.
“Jamie knows why Julie would suddenly start handing out presents”
“Should we talk to her about it”
“We can try”
“Jamie”, Sara Beth said as they walked toward the girl. She was sitting next to G-ma, watching her knit.
“Yeah… what do you want?”, she replied, obviously not interested in interacting with Sara Beth.
“Mara wanted me to ask you to come see her.”
Jamie was torn. On one hand, she wanted to know what Mara wanted. The girl was an enigma, that so far only Sara Beth seemed to be special enough to crack. Perhaps Mara was getting tired of Sara Beth, and wanted to be friends with Jamie. On the other hand, Jamie was quite happy watching G-ma knit, and learning how to do it herself.
“Go off and see her”, G-ma said, urging her granddaughter to be more social.
“Fine”, Jamie said, getting up and walking in front of Sara Beth on the way to where Mara liked to sit.
As she went over the small hill, she was shocked by what she saw in Mara’s hand.
“Come sit in front of me”, Mara said. In her right hand she held a simple hair brush, the kind that secretly, Jamie had dreamed about since coming here. It was bad enough that all she was wearing was a nightshirt and underwear, but the fact that her hair was a complete disaster had always bothered her.
“I’ll brush your hair out for you”
Jamie eagerly accepted the offer, sitting in front of the older girl as Mara gently began to brush her hair out. Jamie hadn’t ever had a haircut, other than simply work done to trim split ends. She’d insisted that she wanted long, flowing locks, and her parents had allowed it. Her sister kept her hair trimmed to about the middle of her back, whereas Jamie’s reached at least 4 inches lower. She would normally spend 20 minutes or so brushing her hair each morning before school, and it was always easier if someone else would help, like her mom, or in years past, Julie.
“Thanks…”, Jamie said as she felt her hair finally get under control.
“Don’t thank me, thank Sara Beth – she’s the one who noticed my hair brush and suggested you might like to use it. I’d been so preoccupied with this place that I didn’t realize it.”
“Uh… Thanks Sara Beth”, Jamie said, with slight hesitation.
“Sara Beth is always doing those caring things for others”, Mara said, as she continued to brush the younger girl’s hair.
Mara knew that, if she were to get anywhere with Jamie, she’d need to start slow. Over the next hour, they chatted about a number of topics, with Mara showing extreme restraint every time Jamie said something that was mildly infuriating to the girl who had spent most of her life as an outcast. Jamie had bought into a lot of the cultural aspects that Mara never found important, and the thought crossed her mind that in the real world, Jamie would have despised Mara for not ‘fitting in’, much like she despised Sara Beth for being a better sister to Julie than Jamie was. This was an angle that Mara could use.
“It’s funny”, Mara began, “In the real world, we’d probably never be friends. And here I am, brushing your hair like girlfriends do for each other”
“Yeah… I guess I wouldn’t have thought you’d want to have been my friend – you are kind of…”
“Uh… yeah…”, Jamie said, self consciously.
“It’s OK, I know what people think of me”, Mara replied, reassuring her.
“Doesn’t it bother you?”, Jamie asked.
“Not anymore, it used to bother me a lot though. It used to really hurt me that others found me so different and would make judgments about me. They didn’t know me, and it felt like all they did was try to hurt me.”
At the last few words of that sentence, Jamie flinched slightly. Mara suspected she may have struck a nerve, figuratively speaking.
“Have you ever been hurt by others?”, Mara asked.
“Just my sister… she doesn’t like me as much as she likes other people”
“Why do you think that is?”
“I don’t know…”
“Well, something must have happened to make her like you less. After all, you are sisters”.
This line of questioning took awhile, with Jamie dodging around the issue, and Mara re-focusing back on Julie and Jamie’s relationship. Finally, Jamie couldn’t dodge any longer. Mara had asked about what Julie and Jamie did together over the past few years.
“I guess Julie doesn’t like playing with me anymore, cause of what I say”, Jamie said, as she moved away from Mara and ran her fingers through her hair. It was long and straight, no more clumps or mats.
“What do you say?”, Mara said, as Jamie turned to face her.
“I guess I kind of figured out how to get to her”, Jamie said, “But it was just for fun – she’d get so upset, and I’d keep kinda, you know, poking at her. Saying stuff that would get her riled up until she finally went a little crazy at me”
“Yeah… anytime she’d get really, really angry with me, she’d kinda cry and then start mumbling the craziest stuff. She’d talk about how she was gonna get me back, how she’d… make me feel the same pain she did…”
“How would she do that?”
“Uh… I don’t remember”
“I think you might, if you want to borrow my hair brush in the future, you’ll tell me”. Mara felt it might be time to use the biggest threat she had available.
“She said… that she wished I’d burn up with the same embarrassment and rage she felt… she described it like a fire burning within her”.
As soon as she let it out, things began to make sense to Mara and Sara Beth, but they weren’t prepared for what Jamie said next.
“If I made fun of her further, then she’d really go a little nuts, and talk about how she’d change things. She’d talk about G-ma, and her friends, and other people, and how she imagined they all had these wonderful lives, with cool stuff, and fun adventures.”
As Mara and Sara Beth watched, a thought occurred to Jamie.
“She always talked about giving G-ma 100% baby alpaca yarn, as much as she wanted, to make whatever she wanted from it”
“I think we might know why the knitting bag appeared today”, Mara replied.
As the reality of the situation set in, the characters all took stock of how life might change. It seemed that things were really getting pushed to the extreme for Julie, on a regular basis, if she’d actually started imaging the physical items she’d give to people vividly enough in her mind as for them to appear. G-ma was happy she had her yarn, but wasn’t sure if it was worth it, knowing how Julie might be feeling.
The red mountain tops had stopped appearing regularly, which they took to mean that perhaps Ryan and Julie weren’t having their meetings anymore. It could be summer, or perhaps Ryan wasn’t getting to her as badly. No new items had appeared since the knitting bag a few days earlier, and the group wondered if Julie needed to get upset to make new items appear, or if perhaps she just needed to use her imagination, even when happy, to manifest them. So many questions.
But what nobody expected was what happened between Jamie and Sara Beth after the hair brushing (Incidentally, Mara was happy to loan her hairbrush around to the rest of the group, as long as it came back to her. She also told the others that it was the only thing in her purse, and strangely, no one pressed her on that strange fact). Jamie and Sara Beth were, amazingly, on speaking terms with each other. Apparently Jamie had decided that, perhaps, she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life angry at 20% of the population she knew presently. Or perhaps in revealing her secret, she felt little need to stay so angry, realizing that perhaps she was somewhat to blame for the way that Julie felt about her.
Sara Beth welcomed having Jamie behaving in a less hostile way, however she felt she’d probably remain skeptical of Jamie’s motives for at least some time. After all, while it might be nice to instantly make a friend, it didn’t seem to work that way in the real world. Nonetheless, it appeared that after the events of the previous week, life may be calming down a bit inside the mind of Julie McKay.